Ellison Review — Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:16 pm on 6th March 2014.

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Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 5:16 pm, 6th March 2014

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made earlier today in the other place by the Home Secretary. We add our thanks to Mark Ellison QC for the investigation he carried out and for his report.

The Ellison report is devastating and disturbing. If it was not known to be a work of fact one could be forgiven for thinking that it must be a work of fiction—and pretty sensationalist fiction at that. Stephen Lawrence was murdered by racists over 20 years ago and ever since it has been a struggle for the Lawrence family, not least my noble friend Lady Lawrence of Clarendon, to get justice and the truth. The Ellison report shows all too clearly why. We should all show our support for the Lawrence family in their continued determination to get both the truth and justice.

The report covers allegations of corruption by a police officer involved in the investigation of Stephen Lawrence’s murder not being brought to the attention of the Macpherson inquiry by the Metropolitan Police. It covers inadequate investigations into those allegations by both the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Metropolitan Police’s own review. It covers key evidence being shredded, a Metropolitan Police spy in the Lawrence family camp, and a finding by Mr Ellison of being unable to reject the claims of Mr Francis that he had been tasked with smearing the Lawrence family. It also comments on the special demonstration squad—the SDS—and its officers failing to reveal their true identities in criminal trials or to correct evidence given in court which they knew was wrong. It indicates that there may have been miscarriages of justice. We support a public inquiry into the activities of the SDS and undercover policing—something we called for last year. Can the Minister confirm that, when the time comes, there will be full consultation with all relevant parties on the terms of reference of the public inquiry and the form it will take?

The Ellison report said that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that at least one of the officers involved in the Lawrence investigation acted corruptly and a full investigation is certainly needed of the outstanding lines of inquiry that the Ellison review identified. It is also important that the House and the Lawrence family should be updated on the timetable and course of this investigation. I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that that will be the case. Can he confirm that in pursuing all lines of inquiry, consideration will also be given to any lines that could lead to prosecutions of further suspects in Stephen Lawrence’s murder? Only recently we had a Statement about Hillsborough and the failure of the criminal justice system to get truth and justice for the families of the victims. Now we have another Statement that will only further shake confidence in the police and the criminal justice system.

The Statement concluded with the changes that this Government has made or is making to the police and policing. I do not want to comment on those changes today; they have already been the subject of much debate. The Ellison report is about culture, as was the report into Hillsborough. Changing the culture is much harder to deal with than I feel that the Statement infers, because the definition of culture within any organisation can simply be described as the way things are done in that organisation. In this instance, the culture is about why some in the police felt that they were working in an environment where it was acceptable to take the kind of actions described in the Ellison report—and, indeed, in the report on Hillsborough—and what actions or messages had been taken or given or, equally significantly, not taken or given, and from what level in the organisation, that had led them to believe that they could do what they did and not be called to account.

The overwhelming majority of police officers are dedicated and conscientious and carry out their vital work protecting our communities and bringing those who do wrong before the courts with great integrity, honesty and, at times, bravery. They will be dismayed by the findings of the Ellison report. The reputation and standing of the overwhelming majority should not be besmirched by the actions and failures of the few, but when things have gone seriously wrong, we have to pursue these matters until we get the truth and justice for those who have been so seriously wronged, not only because we should be doing it for them but because we will not restore full confidence in our police and the criminal justice system until that happens.